Los Angeles, CA — Arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time takes his final bow this weekend at Bellator 290, with Fedor Emelianenko taking on heavyweight champ Ryan Bader in a rematch of their 2019 meeting.
It’s one last walk for “The Last Emperor,” and one last shot at gold in a western promotion, something that has eluded him since his Strikeforce days.
Fedor, one of those rare fighters like Shogun or Rampage who need only be referred to by a single name for immediate recognition, has retired once before. But this time, it feels like retirement will stick, with the Russian citing age as a major factor during a press conference on Wednesday, and in his final pre-fight media scrum a short time later.
“Then I was 20 years old, 20-something years old. 27. Now I’m 46. The difference is huge,” Emelianenko said, comparing his early bouts to this final fight when asked if the feeling was similar at all. “The way I felt, generally. Body health.”
In terms of what the Russian great wishes was different about the sport of mixed martial arts today, Fedor acknowledged the shift away from sportsmanship. “As it used to be before, athletes most of the time used to be super-respectful to each other,” he said via translator. “Right now, things have shifted towards the negative parts, towards where people are showing more negative, and trash talk, rather than showing skills inside the cage.”
For the most part, Emelianenko escaped such disrespect. Such was the admiration his peers held for the Russian.
“The only thing that surprised us was, was right before the fight with Andrei Arlovski, there was some [negativity] from that side,” recalled Emelianenko. “One of my coaches commented to me that, we were really nervous about that. I told him ‘don’t read about it, don’t pay attention. We have to get ready, we have to prepare.'”
Fedor is perhaps infamous for his lack of emotion heading into fights, something that has been noted endlessly over the years. Asked what helps him keep those emotions in check, be it excitement or frustration or anything else that comes with the fight game, “The Last Emperor” told Cageside Press on Wednesday that “first of all, we don’t have to live by emotions, we have to be driven by emotions. We have to analyze the situation, and we have to control and analyze every single word that [someone] is saying.”
And, he finished, “if there is a bad situation, something bad happening to you, just take a pause.”
Emelianenko takes his final bow this Saturday, February 4, 2023 against Ryan Bader at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, CA.